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Memorial Cup will be last hockey event at history-soaked Colisee; new rink nearing completion

05/27/2015 03:59 EDT | Updated 05/27/2016 05:59 EDT
QUEBEC CITY, Que. - When the final whistle blows at the Mastercard Memorial Cup final on Sunday, it will end 66 years of hockey history at the faded old Colisee.

The rink where hockey legend Jean Beliveau skated as a member of the senior Quebec Aces, where Guy Lafleur dazzled fans with the junior Quebec Remparts and where the Quebec Nordiques played in both the World Hockey Association and the National Hockey League is shutting down.

Right next door, the final touches are being put on a new, $400 million, 18,482-seat arena called the Videotron Centre, which Quebec City hopes will one day be home to a new NHL franchise.

The old rink, officially called the Pepsi Colisee, is slated to be demolished. The Remparts will play their first game in the new building in September.

"It's a great building, full of history," said Nicole Bouchard, who has worked in media relations in the Colisee for a succession of professional and junior teams since 1981.

The Memorial Cup is the last hockey event and it will officially close after a concert by the rock group Metallica on Sept. 14.

"My wife will be really upset," said former Rempart and current San Jose Sharks defenceman Marc-Edouard Vlasic. "She's from Quebec, she'll be a little sad.

"I'm happy because that means there's a possibility of Quebec having a (NHL) team. It's a new rink for the better. The Remparts will move there. I grew up in Montreal so it's not that bad. Everybody from here will be really upset, but a positive thing is coming with the new rink."

Thousands of people over the decades got to know the Colisee as the home rink of the famous Quebec International Peewee Hockey Tournament, which draws teams from around the world.

Another highlight for the rink was a two-game series between an NHL all-star team and the Soviet national squad called Rendez-Vous 1987 featuring greats like Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and the dynamic Soviet line of Igor Larionov, Vladimir Krutov and Sergei Makarov.

It was also one of the host rinks for the 2008 IIHF World Championship.

A look into the rafters tells the old barn's story.

There's a retired jersey for Beliveau, who wore No. 9 then. Honoured Nordiques include J.C. Tremblay, Marc Tardif, Michel Goulet and Peter Stastny.

Quebec teams have won trophies in many leagues. There is an Avco World Trophy banner from 1977 when the Nordiques won their only WHA title, an Allan Cup (senior amateur hockey) banner from 1994, and two short-lived ones from 1950s minor pro competitions, the Alexander Cup and the Edinburgh Cup.

There is even a Stanley Cup banner for the Quebec Bulldogs from 1911-12, long before the Colisee was built as a 10,034-seat facility in 1949. It was expanded to 15,176 seats in 1980 after the Nordiques entered the NHL.

Perhaps the rink's saddest moment came in 1995, when team owner Marcel Aubut announced the Nordiques were sold and would move to Colorado.

On Tuesday night, one last banner was lifted in honour for Quebec City native Patrick Roy, the former goaltending great who was owner, coach and general manager of the Remparts between 2003 and 2013.

Roy recalled watching the Nordiques as a youngster and even getting to play some peewee games in the Colisee. And he remembers beating the Nordiques as a member of the Montreal Canadiens in the 1993 playoffs.

"The fact that I come from Quebec put a bit more spice into the series for me," he said. "There was a lot of electricity in the building.

"That's what I like about small buildings. You feel that people are on top of you and it makes it challenging and fun."

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